The food brought up from the digestive system of an animal to be chewed again. Under the Mosaic Law, animals that chewed the cud and in addition had split or cleft hooves were considered clean for eating. “Clean,” cud-chewing animals included the stag, gazelle, roebuck, antelope, chamois, domestic and wild cattle, sheep, and goats. This classification excluded the camel, rock badger, and hare or rabbit, for though they chewed the cud, their hooves were not split. (Le 11:1-8, 26; De 14:4-8) Some commentators claim that clawless, cud-chewing animals are usually cleaner in their eating habits and that their twice-chewed food is digested more thoroughly, so that if poisonous plants are eaten, much of the poison is neutralized or removed by the complex chemistry involved in the longer digestive process.
The process of cud chewing is one of the interesting marvels of creation. The majority of cud-chewing animals have three or four compartments in their stomach and generally cycle their food in a similar pattern. Most of the food they eat passes only partially chewed into the first cavity, and from there into the second, where it is softened and shaped into round cuds. When the animal has stopped grazing and is resting, muscular contraction forces the cuds back into the mouth for rechewing and further mixing with saliva. When swallowed the second time, the food goes through the first and second compartments into the third, and finally it goes into the fourth to complete digestion.
Why does the Bible classify the hare as a cud chewer?
The Scriptural reference to the hare as a cud chewer has frequently been doubted by some critics of the Bible. (Le 11:4, 6; De 14:7) It should not be overlooked, however, that the modern, scientific classification of what constitutes chewing of the cud provides no basis for judging what the Bible says, as such classification did not exist in the time of Moses. Even in the 18th century, English poet William Cowper, who had at length observed his domestic hares, commented that they “chewed the cud all day till evening.” Linnaeus, famed naturalist of the same century, believed that rabbits chewed the cud. But it remained for others to supply more scientific data. Frenchman Morot discovered in 1882 that rabbits reingest up to 90 percent of their daily intake. Concerning the hare, Ivan T. Sanderson in a recent publication remarks: “One of the most extraordinary [habits], to our way of thinking, is their method of digestion. This is not unique to Leporids [hares, rabbits] and is now known to occur in many Rodents. When fresh green food, as opposed to desiccated [dried] winter forage, is available, the animals gobble it up voraciously and then excrete it around their home lairs in a semi-digested form. After some time this is then re-eaten, and the process may be repeated more than once. In the Common Rabbit, it appears that only the fully grown adults indulge this practice.”—Living Mammals of the World, 1955, p. 114.
Certain British scientists made close observations of the rabbits’ habits under careful controls, and the results they obtained were published in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1940, Vol. 110, pp. 159-163. Briefly this is the way the hare reingests its food: If a rabbit eats a breakfast of fresh food, it passes through the stomach into the small intestine, leaving behind in the cardiac end of the stomach some 40 or 50 grams of pellets that were already present when the fresh food was eaten. From the small intestine the morning meal enters the caecum or blind end of the large intestine and there remains for a period of time. During the day the pellets descend, and in the intestines the bacterial protein in them is digested. When they reach the large intestine they bypass the material in the caecum and go on into the colon where the excess moisture is absorbed to produce the familiar dry beans or droppings that are cast away. This phase of the cycle completed, the material stored in the dead end of the caecum next enters the colon, but instead of having all the moisture absorbed it reaches the anus in a rather soft condition. It is in pellet form with each coated with a tough layer of mucus to prevent them from sticking together. Now when these pellets reach the anus, instead of being cast away, the rabbit doubles up and takes them into the mouth and stores them away in the cardiac end of the stomach until another meal has been eaten. In this way the special rhythmic cycle is completed and most of the food has passed a second time through the digestive tract.
Dr. Waldo L. Schmitt, Head Curator, Department of Zoology of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., in commenting on these findings, wrote: “There seems to be no reason to doubt the authenticity of the reports of various workers that rabbits customarily store semi-digested food in the caecum and that this is later reingested and passes a second time through the digestive tract.” He also observed that here is an explanation for “the phenomenally large caecum of rabbits as compared with most other mammals.”—Awake!, April 22, 1951, pp. 27, 28.